Security forces were gearing up Friday morning for anticipated violence ahead of Friday prayers in Jerusalem, following a 48-hour period that saw seven stabbing attacks on Israelis throughout the country.
Thousands of troops were set to be deployed in Jerusalem’s Old City and throughout the West Bank in a bid to quell the spate of attacks that swept Israel in the past week, in which dozens of Israelis were injured and two men — Aharon Banita and Nehemia Lavi — were knifed to death in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Hamas officials called a “day of rage” Friday in the West Bank, prompting fears of widespread rioting. Hassan Yousef, a West Bank leader in the Islamist group, released a statement urging Palestinians to carry out attacks, according to the Ynet news site. Yousef threatened that the West Bank and Gaza Strip would “burn.” The report noted that the statement was unusual for Yousef, who has been trying to keep a low profile.
Police and the Israel Defense Forces were bolstering their presence in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, around the Old City, at the Qalandiya checkpoint, and near Hebron, Ramallah, and Bethlehem.
Police on Thursday announced that restrictions would be imposed on male Muslim worshipers seeking to enter the Temple Mount as they set up metal detectors around the Muslim Quarter.
Muslim women of all ages will be permitted to enter the Temple Mount, but access for men will be limited to those over 50, police said Thursday night. On Friday morning, police said it would also allow men over 45 to enter. The compound has become a flashpoint for violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in recent weeks. Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the compound is the traditional site of the ancient Jewish Temples and houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, and is holy to both Jews and Muslims.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also banned Arab and Jewish lawmakers from visiting the Temple Mount in a bid to help calm the ongoing tensions.
Metal detectors have been installed at Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, Hagai Street, the Via Dolorosa and Hashalshelet Street as of Thursday.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday encouraged all Israelis with a gun license to carry a weapon with them at all times in order to counter the recent wave of attacks.
On Thursday, seven Israelis were injured in four stabbing attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Afula, and Hebron in the West Bank. On Wednesday, Israelis were hurt in three stabbings in Jerusalem, Petah Tikva, and Kiryat Gat, as well as in various clashes around the country. The attacks came days after Lavi and Banita were killed in the Old City on Saturday night and Naama and Eitam Henkin were gunned down in the West Bank in front of their four children last Thursday.
Seven Palestinians have been killed in the latest wave of violence, including four who were targeted while they were carrying out attacks against Israelis.